Danny Stood Up

Published on: October 31st, 2013

Dan Schoen was a great man.

I can write that, knowing well that there are those who disagree with me because of the man he was. Extremely competitive. A malcontent. Hot-tempered. Tactless.  There’s a long list of people Danny rubbed the wrong way.

Winston Churchill said it was a good thing when you had enemies. It means you stood up for something in your life.

Danny stood up. All the time.

I met Danny back in the late ’90s. He was looking for horn players for a new swing band and our mutual friend Terry passed on the information. I joined the band and then met Danny face-to-face shortly thereafter. He was wearing a seersucker suit. Three-piece, in fact. Hat to match. Like he’d just stepped out of the club level seats at Churchill Downs. It was a Kentucky Derby party, so it made sense. But that image of him stuck.

Over the years, I came to call Danny my friend (as I do his beautiful wife Deb and their adorable daughter Annabelle). His honesty was brutally blunt. He was massively intelligent. He also hated bullies. HATED them. He hated bigotry. He hated weak pours. He hated small talk. He hated ignorance. And he called people on all of it. All the time.

Danny stood up.

My last bar fight was with Danny at my back. It was in the parking lot of the P.S. Lounge on Colfax in Denver. He and I squared off against three other guys. We fought that fight and won it. When Danny let them walk away, one of them sucker punched him, putting him out for a few seconds.

Danny stood up.

Danny parted ways with his first career in the financial industry years ago. He confided in me a few times that he loved the competition, but hated the work. He was a blue-collar proletariat at heart. He was a lunch-pail guy. But he was good at making money. Very good at it. When he got handed his walking papers after a yelling match with his office’s security management, he didn’t blink.

Danny stood up.

Danny went back to school and got a law degree. He realized his life-long hatred for bullies could be something that fueled his next career – standing up for those who would be railroaded by a system designed to punish criminals rather than rehabilitate them. Danny soon became the Executive Director of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar. Danny stood up against death penalty unequivocally, earning ink in the dailies around the storied Nathan Dunlap case. Yes. Danny stood up against the death penalty for the mentally ill Chuck E. Cheese murderer. And when Gov. Hickenlooper granted the reprieve…

Danny stood up.

I’ve long admired many things about Danny, but chief among them has always been his steady, unflinching commitment to what he believed in. His sense of justice was unimpeachable. Always. He called himself a “secular humanist.” He actually had a deep love for mankind, even though those who didn’t know him might call him a bit misanthropic.

“I don’t like most people, French,” he said once to me. “But I do love people.”

The world is a better place because Danny was in it.

Dan Schoen died on October 15, 2013. He was 45 years old.

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